Some of the ideas discussed in this blog are published in my new book called "The Stonehenge Bluestones" -- available by post and through good bookshops everywhere. Bad bookshops might not have it....
To order, click

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Did the Preseli Royal Family build Stonehenge?

Possibly the most intriguing thing about the latest Time team programme is the theory that Stonehenge was built by a powerful tribal clan or "royal family" that originated in West Wales (presumably from somewhere near Mynachlog-ddu), moved to Wessex, and became so powerful that they could dominate and organize manpower on a vast scale. The theory is that this clan was responsible for the "Stonehenge Project" and invented the idea of carrying "ancestor spirits" in the shape of stone monoliths from their place of origin to a great "place of the dead" on Salisbury Plain. So they organized the great stone-collecting expeditions and carried 56 stones from Preseli (or wherever) to Stonehenge, and with due ceremony placed them in a circle in the Aubrey Holes, together with the cremated remains of the ancestors. Presumably other tribal groups from other parts of West and South Wales took their "stone ancestors" to Stonehenge as well -- so the Altar Stone was collected up and carried by a tribe from the Brecon Beacons, the Carningli stones were gathered up by a tribe from the Newport area, and so forth. This would of course explain why there was no attempt to differentiate between "good" and "bad" stones -- the fact that ashes and rhyolites are sometimes soft and friable wouldn't matter. The key thing, according to this theory, is that the tribes were motivated to gather stones -- any stones -- from the place where their families originated.

It's a suitably wacky theory, and of course there is not a single piece of evidence in support of it. But it does have one attractive feature, in that it would (if you refuse to accept that the bluestones are glacial erratics) explain why rock-types of so many different kinds are represented in the bluestone assemblage at Stonehenge. And Prof P-P and his colleagues do at least acknowledge that:

(a) the bluestones were on Salisbury Plain right at the very beginning of the monument, presumably in the Early Neolithic; and that

(b) they were moved about and re-used in many different stone settings after that; and that

(c) there never were 82 bluestones at Stonehenge. Their figure is 56 -- another wildly speculative figure, but much closer to my suggestion of 43!

It's difficult to convince these guys of the merits of the "glacial transport" case, because the human transport theory is so deeply embedded in their corporate psyche, but we'll get there in the end.........


Anonymous said...

I love reading your writing, as I can hear your voice so clearly with its lovely Welsh lilt.Very interesting. We didn't actually see the Time Watch programme, but I get a gist of what it was about from your posts.

Hugo Jenks said...

Hi Brian
I am not a geologist or glaciologist, so I do not feel equipped to argue against your bluestone theory. Your writings and diagrams appear quite convincing to me.

What are your thoughts regarding sarsen stones?

Mainstream theory has these transported using human effort to Stonehenge from the Marlborough Downs, a distance of around 20 miles.

I think that I have found evidence of where they may have passed. It would require archaeological investigation to confirm this possibility. I am not an archaeologist either! However, it is proving difficult to interest any qualified person to look into it, this despite a high level of unemployment in that vocation at present.

It does seem strange. You would imagine there would be more enthusiasm.